Political commentator Matthew Hooton has apologised to former MP Steven Joyce for comments made in a highly critical opinion piece published in the National Business Review (NBR).
The apology is part of a settlement deal with Mr Joyce, Mr Hooton confirmed when questioned by Newshub.
Mr Joyce retired from Parliament following National's leadership contest in early March.
It's understood Mr Joyce threatened legal action, possibly defamation proceedings, in response to the column.
The letter, sent by Mr Joyce's lawyer and obtained by BusinessDesk, said the article was "replete with erroneous assertions of fact and defamatory imputations, including that Mr Joyce has engaged, or is likely to engage, in illegal, unethical and corrupt behaviour."
It also disputed the number of votes Mr Hooton claimed Mr Joyce received in the leadership contest.
Mr Hooton published the apology on his Twitter and Facebook accounts on Monday.
"This article could reasonably be understood to suggest that the Hon Steven Joyce had engaged in unethical, dishonest and/or corrupt behaviour during his tenure as a Minister in the previous National Government," he wrote.
"Nothing in the column was intended to convey such suggestions, which would be untrue. I apologise to Mr Joyce for any harm caused as a consequence."
Complicating the whole issue was NBR's decision to let Mr Hooton go as a columnist at the time the controversial column was published. NBR publisher Todd Scott said on Twitter it was part of a wider swing away from opinion writing in NBR.